should I take the first job I can, just to get out of a bad situation?

A reader writes:

I am in the process of interviewing and applying for other jobs. I started my current job a year ago and aside from it just not being the right fit for me, the culture is absolutely toxic and it is very difficult to not let it get to me–my boss trashes me to my colleagues and has turned upper management against me, another department director (boss’s friend) lied about me in a public way that has harmed my reputation, and there is tremendous pressure to work around the clock (even on weekends), family and personal life be damned.

I am reading your How to Get a Job e-book to prepare for my interviews (it’s really helpful) and in a few parts you talk about making sure the job is the right fit for the job-searcher. I definitely want to find a place that is the right fit for me, but I need to get out of this job as soon as I can because it is causing stress in all aspects of my life. What do you say about taking the first job that gives an offer, even if it may not be the best fit?

Well, you can and I totally get why you’d want to, but you should balance it against these factors:

* If you’re not screening jobs thoroughly to ensure they’re the right fit for you, you could end up in another situation that’s just as bad as the one you were fleeing, or even worse. Knowing how unhappy you are now, do you really want to risk repeating that at the next place?

* If you do end up in the wrong place again and want to leave again fairly quickly (and the one year at your current job does count as leaving quickly), you’ll now have a pattern that makes you look like a job hopper. You basically get one freebie on leaving quickly — which means that you really need to make sure that the next place is somewhere you’re willing to stay long-term.

* Not screening jobs well doesn’t just mean that you might end up in a job where you’ll be unhappy. It also means you could end up in a job that you’re not good at and get fired from. Then you’re unemployed, with a firing to explain, and an unhelpful reference from your most recent employer. That’s inflicting a lot of damage on yourself just to get out of bad job a little more quickly.

All that said, there are times when despite the above, it could still be the right choice to jump at the first job that comes along. But those situations are really, really rare — like where you’ll be out on the street if you don’t take the job, or your health is in danger at your current job and you need to keep affordable health insurance by staying employed. Ideally it’s not just “this place sucks and I hate it,” as compelling as that can feel. I think your situation falls closer to the latter category, although I can’t say for sure without knowing more.

By the way, sometimes when this topic comes up, people get frustrated that they have to cater to employer perceptions — “why shouldn’t I be able to job hop if it’s what’s best for me?” and so forth. But the point here is to understand how to get the best outcomes for yourself and the greatest chances of long-term happiness. Employer perceptions are certainly part of it, because those are part of the reality of earning a living — but ultimately all of this stuff is just about understanding trade-offs and realities, and acting in a way that’s aligned with the things that are most important to you in the long-term.

{ 122 comments… read them below }

  1. The Alias That Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    Don’t make a rash decision when you’re desperate and miserable. It will not do you any favors. And, as they say, better the devil ye ken.

    1. annonymouse*

      I did this and I regret it.
      I was in a really toxic work environment (think micromanaging boss who played mind games, was very negative, took credit for my work and never once told me “good job/good work” in the four years I worked there)

      So I was DESPERATE to leave and took the first thing offered. However I failed to see or care that:
      The role was not a good fit for my personality and strengths (data entry instead of reception/customer service)
      The culture (while fun) was not a good fit
      My immediate manager was a bit weird.

      So I ended up somewhere that was less bad but still bad for me.

      When I left that one I promised myself I’d do it right. A job that fits my skills and personality, my kind of culture and environment.

      And now I have my dream job that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. Take your time and get the right next job, not just any next job

  2. The Other Dawn*

    I think if you can afford to do it, just resign. I know we shouldn’t resign without anything lined up, but sometimes it’s necessary when a job is causing so much stress and misery. But only you can make that determination as to whether it’s bad enough to leave now.

      1. Sunflower*

        My personal experience has been that it was 10000x harder to find a job when I was unemployed. Literally the only thing that kept me from quitting my last job was reminding myself how much more difficult my job search would be if I wasn’t working. I even told myself if I quit my job with nothing lined up, I would go travel or move to a different city in order to make it worth it for me.

        Anyone who is debating leaving a job with nothing lined up should be prepared to go without income for a year or take a job to pay the bills- possibly retail/food service or like Allison said, another job you hate. I would only recommend taking this route if your job is causing you serious health issues and/or messing with your psyche.

        1. AnxiouslyAnon*

          I’ve seriously been considering calling it quits without something lined up at my current job. I just want to have 6+ months of expenses before I do so. But I’m still worried about taking that plunge, even though I had to start taking anti-anxiety medication. Because without it, I was getting physical chest pain just driving to work. And early in the week it would last all day. End of the week it would start fading, because, yay, weekend! But almost as soon as I left the building, the pain would leave. It was bad enough that even job hunting was starting to give me anxiety attacks. And I spent so much time trying to recover that I couldn’t job hunt or socialize.

          And even after all this, I debate if this job is messing with my psyche. Because the work isn’t horrible. I don’t conflict with my coworkers and my boss is actually decent (if a bit of an ADHD flake). But the job definitely feels like a bit of a bait-and-switch, where I was told I’d be doing X, Y, and Z, and got stuck doing X only, when I prefer doing Y and Z. And then when I brought it up was told to wait… and watched as nothing happened to improve the situation. It’s not toxic, but it feels it to me. But I’m well aware that most people wouldn’t see it as such.

          I’m just rambling now. But this has been a problem for me for at least 6 months. And hence, now debating leaving with nothing in tow (though several decent prospects are in my court right now).

          1. Sunflower*

            It’s definitely a personal decision. I was certainly very unhappy at work and couldn’t wait to leave at the end of every day. The dread of going to work was bad and I began lashing out at coworkers for every little thing they did- even if they were doing their job. Beyond just being super stressed and getting angry at every little thing which definitely messed with my mind, I didn’t have many health problems from what I remember.

            Not sure if this is your case but for me, being unemployed was worse than going to work. The time I didn’t have a job my self-esteem was incredibly low and the sting of being rejected by jobs hurt much worse. I was a total wreck and can’t remember a time in my life I was more unhappy. With my job, I was skirting by paycheck to paycheck and my anxiety was extremely high but I think worrying about where my next paycheck would be coming from and how much it would be would have been much worse for me. Unfortunately I have a friend who recently lost her job and I’m really worried about her- so much so that I think taking any job might be the best case for her since she feels so worthless right now without a job. It’s a personal decision and I don’t know what’s right for you so you might want to consider talking to a doctor or therapist to help with a decision for you.

            1. Anon Accountant*

              Yes. I was unemployed for 5 months in 2010 and the anxiety was so much worse than when employed. Every job rejection was like a hard punch especially since it would have been a steady paycheck and unemployment is only a portion of your prior pay.

              Not saying the OP shouldn’t resign without another job but just consider all angles.

              1. Anxa*

                While I’ve never had a job that was terribly stressful and toxic, I did work in jobs that weren’t a great match for me (dominant industry in my community, no other prospects) and high-pressure. I loved the work itself, but was always on edge. People would routinely be fired on the spot for small mistakes, and my days were like sanctuaries from the anxiety.

                Unemployment was different for me. It wasn’t acute anxiety, but an omnipresent feeling of dread and worry. There was no day off from it. My sleep issues were exacerbated by the fact that I never felt like I could rest until I had a job secured. When I couldn’t find jobs to apply for, I couldn’t just relax. But I also wasn’t doing anything. I may feel like I’m treading water at my job at time, but this was like…just floating of in a rip current.

                I don’t think one is necessarily worse than the other, but the type of stress and depression I dealt with on unemployment dwarfs any negativity I felt about my crappy jobs or my current dead-end job.

            2. AnxiouslyAnon*

              Oh, I definitely talked to a doctor. Because that’s how I got prescribed the anti-anxiety meds.

              I went through grad school and two unemployment stints (late 2011-early 2012, and late 2013- early 2014) and never dealt with this anxiety level ever. Stress, yes. Bad days, yes. Chest crushing pain tied to a physical location? Newp. That’s a new one.

              It’s because I keep trying to play the “keep getting paid” card that I think I need to up my dose. I’m not a client/social/deal with people person, but a crappy retail job sounds so much better than what I currently have it isn’t funny.

              Either that or getting hit by a bus. Also a valid way of escaping.

              1. MRW*

                AnxiouslyAnon, I’ve been where you are right now. I know you wrote that you’d like to save up for expenses so that prevents you from quitting immediately, but I hope you consider speaking with a therapist if you aren’t already. No job is worth your mental health. I did quit a terrible, soul-sucking job with nothing lined up; it was never easy but the anxiety DEFINITELY lifted as soon as I left. A few years later I have managed to come out the other side. I wish you the very best.

                1. AnxiouslyAnon*

                  Just going to the doctor’s office for some pharmaecutical help has done wonders. I’m… kind of holding off on the therapist angle, if only because 1) I know the problem and 2) kind of know how to unstress myself. It’s just that the amount of energy to get unstressed to deal with work was starting to take all my energy rather than just some. Shitty situation piled on shitty situation. (And again, feeling stupid because the job isn’t “That bad,” I’m just miserable here.)

                  I almost have the 6 months I want. I’d prefer it all in savings, but if I wanted to up and leave I wouldn’t be terribly hard pressed until the middle of summer.

                  Thanks for your well wishes. It’s been a battle trying to figure out if I have been a brat (since I apparently fall into the terribly selfish bracket of a Millennial, albeit an older one, and everyone seems to think we’re brats) or if it’s an actual issue. More and more I’m being told it’s not me being a brat. Small mercies.

              2. Kyrielle*

                Hmmm. Here’s a question: would your doctor consider this, with the crushing chest pain, to have now reached the level of a disability, and if so do you have disability coverage through work? Because if so, going out on disability for this might be a viable approach. Which leaves you (in the short term) technically employed but on a medical leave, I believe…and also gives you some money (although, like unemployment, it won’t cover the whole of what you were making).

              3. BRR*

                I wonder if you could take fmla? That would get you out of the job and you could hunt while still having a job technically.

            3. I'm New Here*

              It is such a personal decision and Sunflower brings up the point of how it can mess with your mind. My mom worked for an absolutely toxic company that would routinely do firings in Feb (more correlated to your retirement age than actual performance), bonuses in March, and then rehire progressively less trained/qualified workers in April. Over time she went from being treated like a professional with some autonomy to a mindless drone. By the time they required time stamps (with prior authorization!) for bathroom breaks my mom had sunk into a deep depression and believed she was worthless and wouldn’t be qualified for anything else. No matter how many times I tried to encourage her, her lack of college degree (despite 20+ years in the financial industry) and their constant berating had her convinced that she would have to work there until she died and that crying herself to sleep was better than unemployment.

              It was such a blessing the day they fired her. While I knew it was coming due to her age, they told her since she completed a client request AS REQUIRED BY THE COMPANY and then the stock market tanked, she was personally liable for his loss and they were letting her go. They did this loudly, in front of everyone, and had her escorted off site etc (like she had seen so many others before her) so she went home in such a dark mood we worried about her safety. We forced her to go to the unemployment office despite the fact the company ‘told’ her she would not be eligible. The moment the State sided with my mom is when her self esteem started to recover. The happy ending? The unemployment office was so impressed with her professionalism that within a month they hired her for a 1 year grant. Which turned into full time employment (now 10 years later). She’s still had bad days but her decisions are no longer clouded by an abusive situation. Sorry for the long story but I feel like while some people make hasty decisions based on temporary situations, others can let a situation fester until their choices are taken away from them.

              1. matcha123*

                That’s great for your mom!
                I hope something like that can happen for my mom…The people at her place constantly tell her they did her a favor by hiring her. She brings in a lot of money for the company and is paid so little.

          2. Chalupa Batman*

            I got lucky and got a job offer just in time, but I was in a similar situation. It helped me to set a date where I was leaving no matter what. I’d called in sick several times because I couldn’t stop crying. I decided that I would give it a reasonable timeframe for job searching (about 6 months), but after that I was done and we’d figure it out. After I left, neck problems, back pain, and regular migraines that I had attributed to “getting older” improved noticeably overnight. I don’t know if I would have really gone through with quitting with nothing lined up (I’m the primary earner for my family), but setting a date made me feel more in control.

      2. CMT*

        I have a related question — what if you’re relocating, say, due to a partner’s new job. I know it’s easier to find a job when you already have one, but it’s also easier to get a job in a place that you live. Do you think one side outweighs the other in this situation?

        1. Anon Accountant*

          It’s understandable when you left a job to relocate due to moving for a partner’s new job. That’s easily explained “My partner accepted a new position in AnyTown and we moved here from Chocolate Town”. Most hiring managers will understand. It’s understandable when you leave your town to move for a partner’s job.

          1. CMT*

            Yeah, I guess my question is whether it would be better to try to line up the job first or move first. If there are distinct advantages to doing one or the other. In my situation, I’m already in a long distance relationship, so keeping it long distance for a few months more while I try to line up a job isn’t a big deal.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              I would actually say do both. My spouse and I have done several cross-country moves.

              In one case, I already had a job, but my spouse didn’t. She waited until we moved before looking for one.

              In the second instance, I knew she was in grad school, and so I looked for (and got) a job before we moved out.

              In the third instance, we both looked for and got jobs before moving out.

              I would say it’s never too early to start looking. You may not get a job until you move, but you can always try to secure one before you move.

            2. hbc*

              The reason people might not look at out of town resumes is that they’re worried about moving expenses, whether you’re applying without reading states, things like that. If you’ve got a reason and a date for your move, all of that is off the table. Start applying right away, and make your move the first thing mentioned in your cover letter.

              Even if your success rate is, say, half of what it would be after you have an address, that’s still a better chance than applying to zero jobs during that time.

      3. Sad Newbie*

        I’m really, really, really struggling with wanting to quit without another job lined up right now. I started a new job 3 months ago that has turned out to be a terrible fit, I’m failing at it, crying every day, and go in each day just hoping that they will fire me so that I can move on with my life. I’m completely overwhelmed. I’ve expressed this to the best of my ability to my supervisor, but perhaps because I approached it from a, “I am working a solution” prospective, she doesn’t realize how bad it is. My current co-workers and supervisor are definitely having to take on more work that me. I need to address this issue, (again), asap.

        I’ve applied for a number of positions and had a few phone interviews, but because I’ve been at my current position such a short time, I don’t list it on my resume or mention it. This makes me look unemployed. I’m not sure what to do in terms of listing the current position or not. I’m failing so terribly at my job that I really don’t even want to talk about it – nevermind giving employers a reason to think I’d leave them after such a short time or that I always jump ship.

        For practical purposes, this is my question:

        Is appearing unemployed on my resume worse than having a 3-month-stint that I want to leave on my resume?

    1. some1*

      But it sounds like LW won’t get a good reference from this job. If she is job searching while still there, it won’t matter because most employers won’t contact a current employer. If she leaves, they almost certainly will want to talk them – ntm Interview Question 1 will be why she resigned.

      1. Breebit*

        This. The common adage that it’s easier to find a job when you’re already employed is true from many angles, but this is the one that the LW should really think on.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes my SO and I were recently discussing this. He went through a layoff, got a job 3.5 months later, then had to resign from that one because it was totally toxic, then 4 months later got current job. Through it all we were so impressed he was able to get hired so quickly, but then we started realizing he took a slight pay cut each time and he’s kind of set his career back a bit, regrettably. Now current job he’s paid 15k less than 2 jobs ago and they’re stalling his project because they don’t have their platform or shit together in general. We began to wonder what may have happened if he had held out a bit and waited for better opportunity and he’s super bummed. But of course it’s a fine line because it also doesn’t look good the longer you’re out of work.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Oops, the resignation was after 6 months (yes it was affecting his health), the layoff was after 7 months. I would not recommend this for just anyone but he does have a pretty impressive background despite these recent hiccups.9

    3. Yetanotherjennifer*

      My dad did that. In fact for a while he was a verb in his circle: to quit without another job lined up was called “to last name.” For whatever reason he never got another corporate job. He was over 50 and he was in a niche market. And he may have burnt a few bridges. He ended up becoming a consultant with a colleague and has had work that didn’t pay very well but made up for it by being very interesting and involving lots of international travel.

  3. Vee*

    I’m going to expand on Alison’s first point… I was in this situation a couple years ago and contemplated taking a new job with a 10+% pay cut, commute that was going to be extended by 45 minutes, and a significant benefit reduction. I ultimately asked myself after factoring all of these things, “Was I really going to be happier at the end of the day?” and the answer was no. It was an emotional decision to turn down the offer because I was desperate to get out, but ultimately I found a new job where I am actually MUCH happier! So I would definitely weight the entire compensation package of any new job you are considering to determine what is best for you.

  4. Hindsight is 20/20*

    I’m in the same situation as OP. I have a second interview coming up. What are some questions I could ask to determine what the workplace culture is like? For anyone else who’ve taken the first offer they could get, what are some of the ways you determined that the job would be a good fit?

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I took the first offer I got when I was moving from retail to office work, because I was starving and couldn’t pay my bills. Some of the topics I probed on included:
      – the interviewer’s personal experience on career progression in the company
      – what would make the difference between a good employee and a great employee
      – what I could expect at three, six, nine, and twelve months in, in terms of experiences
      – what an average day in the position would look like, in terms of amount of time spent on various tasks, how work would be received, how frequent interruptions would be, and so on.
      – what kind of “non-average” days could be expected.

      It was a pretty good overview, and gave the interviewer a chance to tell me about things like our “spirit week” festivals at various points throughout the year, which were a big negative to me but were good to know about ahead of time.

    2. Oy*

      Here are some questions I always have in my docket:

      What is your favorite thing about working here?
      What is the most frustrating thing about working here?
      What is your management style like?
      What does a typical day look like?
      What types of challenges would someone in this role face?

    3. CrazyCatLady*

      I agree with the questions others mentioned but I can’t stress enough the importance of paying attention to how they act, how they treat you, how they talk to other people there, what they say, their body language, etc. When we really want another job, it’s really, really, really easy to ignore red flags or yellow flags that can come up just in being observant.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      If I’m ever job searching again, I’m going to ask questions about performance reviews and how raises are calculated. I want to stay with organizations where your raise is based on your performance alone. I’ve found that companies that rank staff and only give raises to the top performer or where managers are forced to scale back praise, they have an overall culture of distrust and unhealthy competition which can fall into a very toxic environment.
      The performance review process will give a deep insight into the company culture.

    5. Sunflower*

      I took the first offer I got even though I hated my job and so far so good. I think you need to identify the main reasons you want to leave your job and set those as the non-negotiable. My main motivating factors to get out of my job were money and my commute. I was not going to take a job unless the salary was in my range and I could walk to work. If all things in my last job were the same except those two, I knew I would be happier and could deal. Of course I wanted other stuff but those two made it easy to suss out a lot of jobs. Now I probably would have gotten other offers had I been willing to take a lower salary or longer commute but when that conversation came up in the screening process and we weren’t on the same page, I bowed out.

      Like in any other interview process, identify things you don’t care about. I’m single and healthy so as long as you offer healthcare for a reasonable price, I’m fine on that front. I also don’t mind working overtime as long as I’m compensated and/or it’s not outrageous.

      What tripped me up is that I don’t get to travel as much and my office was not as close as I would have liked. My commute changed to 25 mins walking and public transport from 45-60 mins driving and I felt I could deal with that- I would have dealt with it but I ended up moving so I could walk! Traveling is something I hope will start happening more as I get more comfortable within my job.

      At the end of the day, go with your gut and ask yourself ‘how does this job fit into my career path’. Even though the job wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, I knew it would increase my skill set, get me involved in a large organization and be a great stepping stone to a better job at some point. And the gut feeling was there.

    6. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I took the first job I was offered when leaving a job that had become toxic for me. The only reasons I didn’t resign with nothing lined up was that 1) I knew that I was coming from a position of strength from already being employed, and 2) I didn’t know what my second boss (the wife and partner of my original boss) would say about me in a reference check. She was the reason I was leaving the firm, and she was very emotional, volatile and unpredictable. I thought she might say a slew of negative things out of vindictiveness.

      The reason I felt pretty secure taking the first job available were:
      1) I was returning to the university where I had already previously worked. Departments can have different cultures, but the overall university culture I was already familiar with.
      2) The new job was one of four I had applied for, and one of two which were at a promotion from my previous university job (the other two were for jobs at the same level). I knew that I would accept either of the two jobs that were at a promotion, and this one came up first. I didn’t want to lose my opportunity to escape my toxic job if I ended up not being the first choice for the other department.

      How it’s going now:
      I’ll probably work this department for a couple years and then look to transfer out of the business school and back into a more relaxed university unit. My former department was part of the design school, and they had a whole different cultural take on the university bureaucracy than the business school does. The design school tolerated the bureaucracy and complied with the minimum expectations thereof, while the business school seeks to meet and *exceed* the amount of red tape, documentation, duplicate procedures, etc., etc. required by the university.

    7. Koko*

      For work-life balance questions, I like to ask the hiring manager/interviewer direct questions about their own work-life balance. The company may pay lip service to it in their benefits, but nobody actually uses them. I like to ask what time they left work the last few days, and is that typical? I also will ask where they went on their last vacation, and when it was.

      Of course a shady manager could still lie to you, but assuming they answer the questions honestly I think it provides more valuable information than just asking about vacation days or regular working hours in general.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    OP –
    Another thing to consider is that interviewers can often tell when you’re interested in a job because you want that job, vs you want any job. I’ve definitely noticed that difference in people I interview.

    So your best bet is focusing on jobs you really want and finding the right position.

    1. Winter is Coming*

      I hate hearing, after asking why the candidate wants to work for us, “Because my unemployment is about to run out.”

      1. INFJ*

        I can’t believe people actually say that. But then again, I hear so many stories from my SO from his days as a retail manager that I really shouldn’t be surprised any more.

      2. Anna*

        It’s so funny you say this because it relates when working with students who are looking at leadership positions. I just did interviews for a position in my area and one student’s answer when I asked what interested them in the position was “It’s an X kind of leadership position and I need that kind.” Coaching opportunity!

      3. Windchime*

        I know managers hate hearing that, but sometimes people are desperate and they really do just want a job, any job. At the end of the day, the goal of a job for most of us is to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. People who are applying out of desperation can still be good employees. (I realize that the chances of it being a mutual good fit might not be as good in this situation).

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yes, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You can want a job because you need money, but they’re not asking why you want a job; they’re asking why you want this job.

          I know dating analogies don’t always hold up, but it seems to me like someone asking what you found attractive about her, and you responding “I have to have somebody, because I want to get married and have kids soon.”

          1. BRR*

            I agree and think it also depends on the type of job you’re applying for. A good chance you shouldn’t be asking what interested someone about a minimum wage position.

      4. matcha123*

        Honestly, I hate being asked that.
        “Why do I want to work for you? I don’t, I need money to survive and I can do this job reasonably well. I don’t start drama with people, I do as I’m told, I contribute when and where I can. If it were my choice I’d be traveling the world.”

        I really hate being asked that question because it’s one that’s so easy to lie about, too. Why do I need to gush about your company, your vision or whatever?

      5. Rater Z*

        When I applied for the job I have right now, it was as a part-time job that I would be working along with a full-time job. I didn’t realize when I was filling out the application that I would be having three interviews that day as a result. I had to ask to do the third one later because I was out of time. The third interview was with the lines leader who wound up telling me right then if I had the job or not. He told me he didn’t know if he wanted to hire me for fear I would stay two weeks and quit on him. I told him I had a stack of bills sitting on my desk reminding me why I was working there. That was later on a Friday afternoon and I actually started there the following Monday – three days later. It was a year before I realized I started working there on my 17th wedding anniversary. So, both my wedding and job anniversary dates are the same day. A couple years later, he was transferred to another store and then later he came back to my store again. I asked him if, when he hired me, he thought I was still be around seven years later. He said no but it was a pleasant surprise. I will be there 16 years in July.

    2. Sunflower*

      This so much good. Good on reading Allison’s guide as that’s where it really started to hit home that ‘yes I will do whatever you want me to do, no problem doing that work’ was not the answer I should be giving to every question.

      That’s also why it’s so important to ask real questions about the company. Don’t fill your questions part of the interview with fluff- ask real questions that you actually care about the answers to . It shows you’re evaluating the job and them as well. Any good employer is going to want a candidate to do that.

    3. Murphy*

      Yes! I have had candidates who clearly just want a job (or promotion) and they are never my successful candidate. I want to know why you want to work for me doing the work we do, not that you want to jump up to the next rung on the ladder. Drives me batty.

  6. hbc*

    “Why shouldn’t I be able to job hop if it’s what’s best for me?” Do people really say that? I mean, I’m completely supportive of people who enjoy racing from one job to the next and can swing it based on the level of the job, their winning personality, and ability to learn quickly. Good for them, truly. But acting like employers are unfair to want someone with a history of sticking around is just mystifying. Would you personally want to have to find a new hair salon or dog walker or doctor or plumber every 6-12 months or is it easier on you to have a place or person that you can rely on for a long time? Employers want things easier too.

    1. De Minimis*

      That’s something I’m really seeing now….it is a huge pain to fill a position, at any level, even just a part-time general office position.

  7. Batshua*

    I feel like I should urge the OP to take a vacation, whether it’s a contiguous block or a couple of 3 day weekends to help them cope with the stress that toxic places can bring.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Absolutely. In the past I’ve made a point of scheduling myself a good long “do-nothing” vacation, and it has done wonders for renewing my energy and verve.

    2. Ann without an e*

      Or take up Yoga, I started Yoga to deal with my toxic work place, a part of me is glad I worked there. Without them I never would have taken up Yoga which has become an incredibly enriching part of my life.

  8. Lizauthor*

    What if you sound something short-term like retail, restaurant work, or even freelance? That would get you out of the bad situation while providing (some) income and it might be easier to explain to future employers.

  9. Kat*

    Can you start freelancing while at this awful job? It could help pad your savings and if you can hold out for a few months, could give you something to go to when you quit and bridge the gap until you find a good job (or replace having to find another job entirely, depending on your skillset/industry)

    1. TootsNYC*

      I like the “while at this awful job” aspect.

      i get that they want you to work such horrible hours, but maybe a second job or something would help you carve out time that you CAN’T work those hours.

      And it would be good to spend time around people who see you as competent.

  10. CrazyCatLady*

    I get the temptation – I really, really do. It’s so hard to pass up an opportunity to escape misery. I recently received a job offer at a really cool company but there were so many signs the place was really toxic. I didn’t want to jump from frying pan to fire and when you’re feeling very emotional, it’s sometimes hard to make decisions in your own best interest. I agree with all the factors Alison mentioned. Ask thoughtful and important questions at interviews and don’t discard your gut feelings in order to escape your current job. It was a huge struggle for me to turn down the offer but I am so relieved that I did.

    1. Ann without an e*

      What were the signs? I think your list could be helpful to the OP and others, including myself.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        I’ve talked about it a few times in open threads so sorry for anyone who has to re-read this. I’ll include links to the posts in another comment ;)

        When I asked what is the difference between a great employee and an employee that was adequate, they exclusively talked poorly about past candidates (including saying one didn’t work out because they had a child and other stuff that’s even worse and would potentially identify them). When I asked how they evaluate good performance, they said they didn’t tie them to raises (I had to clarify that I wasn’t talking about financially evaluating good performance). The interviewer was late and took multiple calls during the interview (one even from another job candidate who was just calling to schedule an interview). There was high turnover. Of 5 people I met, every single one was a man (not necessarily a problem, but in light of some of the other things that were said, started to become a yellow flag) I’m mid-career and when I told him my salary, they said they wanted someone who was excited to work there and “you don’t have kids, right?”. I asked what type of candidate would do well, since they had fired so many of the past candidates, and they said that was the “million dollar question.” There were a bunch of other things, too, but these are the ones coming to mind right now.

        Obviously none of these things were said all at once, and they were peppered in throughout multiple interviews and interactions. It’s kind of like when you first start dating someone and there are some off-putting things but there are also great things and you just keep ignoring and ignoring and ignoring until you’re the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water. There were plenty of good and exciting things about the job which made it easy to mentally push aside some of the red and yellow flags to the point where I almost took it.

  11. Anna No Mouse*

    OP – I can sympathize. I spent three years in a toxic environment, being bullied from all sides, and dealing with what I now recognize was a legitimate hostile environment and sexual harassment. I started job seeking a year into that, and it took another two years to find a new gig.

    It certainly sounds like your situation is every bit as bad as mine, and all I can tell you is that I believe I would have had an even harder time finding a job had I just quit. Although I felt incredibly desperate at times, and my health was suffering from stress, I’m happy I stuck it out for a number of reasons, including not having a short stint on my resume, and gaining additional contacts during my time there.

    Good luck, OP. Stay positive and try to make sure your next move is your best move. My job after leaving that terrible job was my best to date.

    1. Ann without an e*

      I’m sorry you went through that I went through something similar. I am very thankful for this site it helped through a difficult time.

      Unlike you I have chosen to resign after waiting for two years. I live in a small-ish town my wait could be a lot longer

  12. Ann without an e*

    OP, I was in your situation exactly. In fact I wonder if you work for the place I used to work for. I spent two years working at that place hoping something in my area would open up, but this Christmas I gave up and I resigned with nothing lined up. Financially I am in a situation where I can be unemployed for an extended period and I have found that the longer I have been away from my toxic work place the better I interview. The biggest problem you will encounter is a new employer asking you “Why did you leave your last employer” you need to be able to answer that question without talking smack about your previous employer. You cannot tell them about the toxic work place, lack of professional ethics, or the tendency for management to inappropriately “fraternize ;)” even if its true it will make you look bad, not them.

  13. AtrociousPink*

    Do be careful. As awful as you think the current job is, there is always a worse one — and I know from experience. About 15 years ago, I executed not just one but two frying-pan-to-fire jumps. Craptastic Job #3 made me long for the halcyon days of Craptastic Job #2, which in turn had made me long for the halcyon days of … you get it. I was actually grateful when Craptastic Job #3 laid me off, so that I could (1) get the hell out of there while (2) not having to put down yet another quick resignation on my resume.

    Another reason to not jump too quickly is that, ironically, the stress of your current job situation (as well, possibly, as other stressors you might have at the moment) could be clouding your judgment. In retrospect, I know that was the case for me.

    1. GetMeOutOfHere*

      Hey, I’m the OP. I think you and Alison are right. I had a job interview the day before I wrote this email that I was overqualified for, which led me to writing the question. The interview was in the afternoon, and that morning was a terrible day at the office, so I wan’t on my A game. In fact, I think I was on my H game–not only because of my bad day, but also throughout the interviews by a few people, I got the sense that they ran their operation similar to where I am now. I also noticed that all of the people who I talked to (I looked them up on LinkedIn afterward) were job-hoppers. I was actually relieved when they turned me down!

      1. AtrociousPink*

        I see it as a good sign that you’re able to stand back and analyze the situation as you have here. Just keep calm and keep looking, while doing as much as you can to mitigate your stress and keep a clear head.

      2. CrazyCatLady*

        It’s good that you’re able to be clear-headed about all of this. Best of luck in finding something soon!

  14. JJ*

    Maybe the OP’s description of the situation is hitting me hard because I know it would be very difficult for me to work in that kind of environment (as in, I *know* I would be a big ball of debilitating stress), but I get a really bad feeling from that description….as in, the OP may be on their way to getting fired soon. I generally agree with Alison’s sentiment to have something lined up before leaving, but I also fear that you may either be pushed out really soon or be emotionally pushed to the point where you do or say something in the heat of the moment that you will regret.

    For that reason, I feel the need to echo what others have started suggesting later in the thread: Would it be possible for you, OP, to survive off of part-time or freelance work (or something similar) in case you get to the point where they push you out or you just won’t be able to take it any more? That way, even if you do part ways with your current org earlier than expected, some of that pressure you’re feeling to accept the first job–any job–would be at least somewhat relieved by knowing that you have another source of income, and you won’t be on the job hunt while unemployed (which would make it harder for you to find a job). I highly recommend FlexJobs (they advertise telecommuting jobs; I easily got two jobs through them and have been doing one of them for the past two years, on top of my full-time job).

    1. Dasha*

      I’m curious, do you have to pay to be a member of Flexjobs or is a free service? I thought I heard someone say you have to pay to join but I could be wrong.

        1. JJ*

          Yeah, you can browse for free (or, at least you used to be able to do that; not sure if you still can), but if you want the specifics for the jobs you do have to pay for a subscription. I have consistently found promo codes out there that slashed the price for me by 25%-75% each time, but it really depends on what subscription you’d be willing to take on. I have paid for the 12-month subscription, which has had the tendency to come with the largest discounts.

          Personally, I think a more cost-effective method than what I’ve done may be to pay for the 1-month subscription and to go back through several months’ worth of listings, making sure to take note of the companies that have hired for positions that interest you. Then just check in with the sites for those companies directly, as FJ usually waits for those companies to announce those positions before posting them (unless they’ve made a special deal with FJ to only post the ads on the FJ site; that does happen). I keep my annual subscription, though, because more and more companies are starting to use FJ and I like to monitor what’s out there.

    2. GetMeOutOfHere*

      Not possible. Need my full-time income to support my family. I also would never quit with nothing else lined up, so I’ll be here til I die or find a better job.

      1. JJ*

        That’s understandable. I had a feeling that that might be the case, but reasoned that taking on something small to build an FU Fund, should you end up needing it, might be worth it. I feel for you and hope your job search goes well.

  15. NK*

    I agree with the others here. My husband jumped from one job to another out of desperation, and definitely regrets it. He could have and should have held out a little longer to find the right role. I KNOW how much it sucks to be in a miserable job. I did the ill-advised quit with nothing lined up move early in my career, and while I got exceptionally lucky in finding something new, I wouldn’t do it again or recommend it under most circumstances. But if you can try to stick it out for the right thing, you’ll be so much happier in the long run.

  16. Dasha*

    One thing that really frustrates me is that I’ve been through a major re-organization of a company (was there 2 years) and I was then laid off from the oil and gas industry (there only for a year) and now I look like a job hopper…

    OP, please try to wait it out as best you can until you find something that is good for you. You should find comfort in knowing that you are looking and you are interviewing at other place. It won’t be forever!

      1. Dasha*

        Yes, but I feel like they look bad on my resume if that makes sense? Like yes, I can easily explain it was a layoff but how does a recruiter know by just looking? :-/

        1. F.*

          I am in oil & gas country (SW PA), and when I see only a year (or even less, recently) at an oil & gas firm on a person’s resume, I don’t even think twice about it. I know they industry is going through very tough times lately.

          1. Dasha*

            Thank you, F. It makes me feel better- I don’t want to look like a flake, I’ve just been working at small companies who have been purchased or shut down lately.

            1. Pop*

              I feel you. I was with one company for 4 years, then they eliminated my department. Took me a few weeks to find a new gig. I was there for about 16 months, then they laid off a third of the department. Three months later I got hired into a newly created position and four months later, they decided they didn’t need the position after all and laid me off. Three months later I finally found the job I’m in now. It looks awful on a resume.

              1. Dasha*

                Pop, I’m really glad to hear from someone who can relate… I know I’m not a job hopper but just when I hear how bad is to be one I know I look like one and I cringe. :-/

          1. fposte*

            Maybe, if it’s the last job held. But you don’t want to go back to talk about why you don’t have the job before that.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      I don’t think this is necessarily as bad as some people think, but depending on what you do etc. I went through 3 layoffs in a row back in the heart of recession – all around the 1.5 year mark! I had no problems finding a job but have found smaller companies find me more desirable than large corporations. Like the really big ones with online app systems I think seem to weed me out. But I must have a decent resume and be able to sell myself well because as long as I get to the point I’m able to speak with a live person I have no trouble getting hired.

  17. shep*

    Oh man, I ended up taking the first thing that came along, mainly because I’d been looking for over a year after grad school, and was barely making ends meet in my variable-hour position. I didn’t have insurance through my current employer, and they did some REALLY shady things to clients, corporate, and their staff.

    I don’t regret jumping into the new job because I would’ve sunk otherwise. That said, the new job was akin to a life raft in a stormy sea. I DID have health insurance, but ironically was making only a little more in take-home pay than I was at my old job. To boot, the work was terrible. Training was a mess, coordination between departments was a mess, and this position was in the social work field, in which I have no training or interest.

    That said, my supervisor was very kind and was sad to see me go. He wanted to know what they could’ve done differently in the exit interview, because I was “a great employee” and they wanted to know how to keep people like me going forward. As a result, they restructured both the pay scale and education requirements for that position.

    Is this typical, or ideal? Certainly not. And I absolutely HATED the job, despite the nice staff I worked with. I would’ve begged for my old job back, were it not for the salary stability and health insurance at the new place.

    So I suppose you should take this anecdote with a grain of salt, but I do think my brief tenure at FirstOfferJob helped me get my foot in the door with my CurrentHappyJob, and that I would’ve fallen into severe financial trouble had I not taken it, despite the poor fit and all my misgivings. I feel very lucky to have hopped into a new position so quickly afterwards, and that it could’ve gone very badly, but I still think that, at least in my position, I was doing what I needed to do to survive financially and career-wise.

  18. kristinyc*

    I did this once – took the first offer I got in order to leave an undesirable situation. The new job was even worse, and I ended up leaving after 6 months without lining up something else (after already having job hopper tendencies). Good fit = Very important.

    But – then I ended up taking off 3 months completely. I freelanced a little, and decided to be extra selective in the job I ended up taking. (I’m fortunate to have a very rare/very desirable skillset, so I knew I’d be okay not lining something up right away. I get linkedin recruiter emails 3-4 times a week, so I knew I’d find something quickly).

  19. em2mb*

    Turning down a job was one of the most adult things I feel like I’ve ever done. I was in a very toxic work environment that was getting worse by the day, and while the new opportunity would have been “OK,” something just didn’t feel right. They wanted an answer same day, inflexible start date, etc. I knew even if they job turned out to be an OK fit, I would be job hunting within two years (about the standard for my age/industry). So I gritted my teeth and stayed with the devil I knew.

    Six months later, I got a very similar job offer, in the city where I desperately wanted to be. Two years in, I’m so, so glad I held out for something that was truly the right fit – and I have no plans to leave. I’d never turned a job down before, and while it wasn’t easy, it was great life experience. I actually have some contact with the folks at Job I Could Have Had now as part of Job That Turned Out To Be Way Better, which I thought would be awkward, but they’re actually really cordial when we interact. Good luck, OP.

  20. A*

    OP, I don’t have anything much of substance to add in terms of advice, but I will say that I can absolutely empathize. I’m in that situation right now and it’s killing me. Over and over again, though, I hear it’s best to job search while employed and, as tempting as it has been to apply to anything and everything just to get out, I’m being very selective to avoid starting back where I am. Best of luck!

    1. em2mb*

      I’m not sure if your situation is the same as the OP in that the work is creeping into all hours – but something that helped me when I was sticking it out in Terrible Job was carving out “me time” that my boss didn’t get to intrude on. Maybe it’s yoga or an art class, or maybe you just say vaguely, “I have a standing commitment Tuesdays from 6-9,” and watch NCIS reruns. I’d work insane hours the rest of the time – I was producing great work, even if it was in a shitty environment – but that one day a week was mine.

    2. Overeducated and underemployed*

      I’m just jumping in to say I’m sympathetic and understanding as well. I’m not in a “toxic” job, but I am constantly jumping between multiple temp and seasonal positions with no future or benefits, so the question of whether to take any permanent job or wait around for a really good one is constantly on my mind. It’s a calculation you have to make with every single prospect, too. The hard part is not being able to rely on luck – there’s no way of knowing, whether you are taking or turning down the first job, whether there will be another, better option following soon behind.

  21. Anon Accountant*

    OP- during your time there try to have things to look forward to outside of work. Hobbies, interests, view your job as learning new skills to use in your next job. I know how hard it is to deal with in a job that you are absolutely miserable in but you don’t want to end up with your next job being as miserable. Hang in there (easier said than done).

    Good luck!

    1. GetMeOutOfHere*

      I do. The problem is that I don’t have time for them. I have started to put up more boundaries, but that makes my boss like me even less and he is harder on me. He has been testing me to see if I’ll stay past a certain time, but I am holding firm.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Good. Do that as long as you’re able, otherwise you’ll have no time to job hunt. My BF was in such a toxic situation his boss expected him to be on call 24/7 and respond to customer crises within 7 minutes, when there was a whole dept whose job that really was. The dude just got more and more retaliatory and finally my BF had to resign on the spot one day or he may have clobbered the guy, or had a heart attack. Point is as long as you actually can carve out time for job hunting and are able to interview without being a wreck, stay.

  22. Colin*

    If the situation is bad enough, take some time off to gain perspective. I’m in a tough situation right now that has been going on for almost two years. I’ve been completely pidgeon-holed at an organization that has been so poorly managed that anyone that could help me out is out the door a couple months later. Combined with a stalled job market I’ve contemplated one or two potentially desperate moves just to change the situation.

    I almost left my permanent job for a one year contract last fall, but then had second thoughts and turned it down just because it seemed to be way too risky. After having taken some time off over the Christmas Holidays, I am mentally in a much better place now than I was beforehand. I totally see how that as crappy as my situation is, it could be a LOT worse, so I’m sticking it out until the right thing comes along.

    Take time off, travel somewhere, and get your perspective back!

  23. Mando Diao*

    In the OP’s shoes, I would keep the job but start looking for new work now. The “job hopping” issue is moot if someone hires you. I’ve been in that situation before: I was miserable at my job but was not at risk of being fired or laid off, so after I hit the one-year mark, I took my time applying and looking for a job that was better fit. It really helped me get through those final months to know that I had other plans in motion. Good luck!

      1. Mando Diao*

        Hmmmm, that’s not something I’ve found to be true across the board; I find this rule to be similar to yesterday’s punctuality debate. Though I know that in some fields it’s a definite ding against you to have moved around a lot, I personally have never seen it to be true in my industry or peer group. I’m talking things like digital media, some branches of marketing, and even high-ranking chefs in upscale restaurants. Businesses are always launching, merging, and closing. Of course, some of these fields/incarnations are new enough for there not to be anyone with 20+ years logged at one company (none of these companies are that old), but a lot of industries are more or less set up to encourage you to move around every two years.

        We’re also talking about the divide between large/established and small businesses. I’ve worked at businesses that made a lot of money, but I’ve never worked anywhere that had anything resembling HR. It just isn’t done in milieus that encourage young-ish adults to embrace their entrepreneurial spirits. I have no idea what’s going to happen when we hit 40 and get sick of the lack of stability, but at the moment, a long resume isn’t a point of judgment.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If it’s not true in your field, then yes, ignore that advice. But it’s true in enough fields that it’s important to be really, really sure (and often people new to the work world think it’s not true in their fields, act accordingly, and then discover that it was, so it’s important to caution people).

  24. Audiophile*

    I understand the urge completely to take almost any job. I worked for a horrible company 5 years, (it was basically a staffing agency) their clients were easy to work with but the company I worked directly for was a horror. So I applied for jobs furiously, because I figured anything had to be better than what I was doing. Well, I took the first job that came along, since I hadn’t had an offer in 3 years and it was a disaster. There were no clear parameters to work within, nothing I did was ever right and I quickly found myself regretting my decision. I got dismissed from the job, which just heightened my belief that I was a screw-up. And pushed me back into the job search. A few months ago, I finally found a job that’s a good fit. And it makes me realize just how many other jobs I interviewed for, would have been a poor fit, not because I couldn’t do the job but because I wouldn’t have been happy.

  25. MechE31*

    To expand on this, where does the line drawn on who is a job hopper?

    I left my last job after 20 months. I have accepted an offer to move on from my current job next month after 20 months at my current job. The first was my “dream job” that ended up being a toxic environment with 0 work life balance. The current job was a foray into an executive role at a small company. While it’s not terrible here, I don’t have confidence in the financial stability of the company.

  26. PNWAnon*

    How do contract and temp jobs impact job hopper perceptions? Right out of grad school, I took a contract position that was supposed to last 2+ years. However, I unfortunately got laid off after 8 months due to unforeseen major structural changes at the organization and have since only been able to find short term contract and temp jobs. I’m starting to worry that my resume makes me look like a flighty job hopper rather than someone trying to build skills that will lead to a long-term job.

    1. PolarBear*

      I’m the same – I don’t think the contracts count as job hopping do they? In an interview recently (for a fixed term job!) the interviewer queried my contracts. Most of the time jobs that I see are contracts only. I’ve had 4 year part time whilst a student, a 3 year stint for my first ever job and then contracts between 6 months to a year for the past 3 years.

      1. Serial contractor*

        No, fixed time or temporary contracts do not count as job hopping. I have several in my resume, of merely months each (along with a 8-year and a 5-year jobs) and it was never a problem. I typically get multiple offers even when looking for full time or contract work, and was never questioned for these short stints because it’s clear from my resume that these are contract positions in which I finished a project before moving on to the next.

        I would only advise against listing jobs in a way that may give the impression they were full time jobs, as in

        Teapot Project Manager – Company ABC – Jan – Mar 2015.

        I write something like:

        Contractor: Teapot Project Manager at Company ABC – Jan – Mar 2015.

        1. PolarBear*

          Thanks, that’s what I do. It just made me wonder as that recent interviewer questioned me on my “fragmented CV” even though I have clearly put that they are fixed term/temp roles! That’s the first time I’ve been questioned like that. And the job I was interviewed for is a fixed term one!

    2. AnonForMonday*

      Regarding contracts and the perception of job hopping: I am a federal contractor. In recent years, the Government has moved to qualifying contractors on huge, omnibus contracts (about a 5-year span). Your company then competes for individual, yearly (or shorter) task orders for the actual paid work. It’s not unusual to change companies each year to stay with a single project. [We used to win a single contract for 3-5 full years of uninterrupted work.]

      I have worked on the same project for two different companies (first A, then B won the work). Then I got laid off from Company B when the task order expired (project was finished). I got a new job on a new project with Company C, which was under subcontract to Company B, my old company. (I walked into new job on a Monday and saw my Company B supervisor from last Friday chatting with my new Company C supervisor. As to why didn’t Company B didn’t keep me, they had already bid the work for new project and the position I got was allotted to subcontractor Company C. And so it goes…)

      What appears to be job hopping in the commercial world is the new norm for the federal sector. (No one in that world blinks when getting a resume like this.) I have had to rework my resume quite a bit when pursuing job leads in the “real world,” and have addressed the frequent changes in my cover letter. But it still looks a lot like job hopping to commercial businesses.

      In my resume, I list work under each company thus:

      Company C, City, State
      Technical Writer, start date – end date
      Description: “Under Contract to Government Agency, support the Teapot Spout project…”

      My goal is to make it clear these are finite positions.

      It is crucial that your resume and cover letter explain the job changes. On-line applications often have a box for why you left the job; I list “contract expiration.” It hasn’t raised any flags in interviews.

  27. NicoleK*

    Been there before. And it was terrible. So I truly did empathize. I did take the first job that I was offered and so far, things are working out for me.

  28. DragonHeart*

    This just happened to me last week. Those in the open thread knew my story, I took the first job that was offered to me. But that was because if I didn’t I would be unemployed since my ex-manager is doing his best to manage me out, and in my situation time was against me. OP if you are not being laid off or fired do take the time to find a new job before resigning. Actively apply, and most importantly, ask around your own network. A lot of jobs are not advertised.

  29. PolarBear*

    I’ve been there too. I left a fixed term contract (even though it was being extended) because I didn’t like it and cried every day. I then jumped into the next PA job I could find without thinking of the consequences!

    The new job was so much worse. The PA I was taking over from told me the directors were terrible to work for and that I better be tough to survive! I gif no training and no handover and was left to my own devices whilst being scolded by the directors. Within a week, I was depressive and anxious and I quit with nothing to go to. It really was the wrong fit for me. They had had two PAs that year in the post and nobody stayed.

    I had savings and live with my husband so I had a safety net. The job has never been on my CV and it’s never come up. Immediately I began applying for jobs and got a PA job I liked and started within 2 weeks. :)

    The funny thing was, one of the other secretaries at the awful firm told me I would never be able to hack life in the City and should go back to my home town and get a “little job typing or filing or something.” I proved her wrong, not that I’ve ever spoken to anybody there again.

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